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healingA reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 35:4-7a)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” This is a promise from the Lord that becomes very specific and includes assurances that “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared,” “the tongue of the mute will sing.” Then, to top it off for people struggling in a parched desert, “the burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.”
 
This is God giving new life to the people of Israel who have suffered so much. It is a messianic prophesy of a new kingdom, a new relationship between God and his people. However, there is untold new suffering, new trials to come for thousands of years. Yet, people have returned to Isaiah, and this passage in particular, to give them hope. We Christians believe that this promise has been fulfilled in Jesus and we live in that promise.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” How often do you say a prayer of praise to God? Most of our prayers are asking God for something or for forgiveness. Of course, those are necessary and often heartfelt prayers. But what about saying a prayer of praise that can be added to our prayer of thanksgiving or just stand alone in our moments of awe before our loving God?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 2:1-5)
 
Most of the early Christians were not rich, but a few were and apparently there were situations in which the relatively rich person was given the choice seat at the celebration, and the poor man was treated shabbily. James wanted to put an end to that.
 
“For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs? … “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who loved him?”
 
There was a time in many Christian churches when rich people “bought” the best seats in the church and had them reserved each Sunday. I have never known that in any parish I have been in, but I suspect it still exists in some places. You never know if someone sitting next to you may be “poor in the world” but is rich in faith.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 7:31-37)
 
People at the time of Jesus suffered many afflictions for which there was no medical cure. They also lived in continual political and economic chaos, feeling powerless in the face of oppression from the Romans and from their own countrymen who had power over them in so many ways.
 
So you can imagine how popular Jesus was because of his many cures. “They were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” But this is only one instance of Jesus healing. We know of many occasions when he healed someone of illness or infirmity, raised the dead to life, and—most important—forgave people for their sins.
 
Jesus was a healer, unlike any before him, and he wants all of us his followers to be healers as well. What opportunities do you see in your life for healing someone? Perhaps it is an emotional or spiritual healing or maybe the healing of a relationship. How about the healing of your marriage or your family? That does not necessarily mean that something is badly broken but rather that there are wounds of one kind or another that need the healing mercy of Jesus.
 
And, what about you? Where and how do you need healing in your life? Is it the loss of a loved one, the loss of some part of yourself that does not work the way it used to, the loss of memory, or simply the loss of a joy that used to be there every day of your life but now comes and goes. What steps can you take to restore your joy? How can you pray to Jesus to be with you on your journey to healing and wholeness? Jesus offers us healing gifts every day of our lives, but sometimes we are too busy or tired or wounded to experience them. His healing touch doesn’t work like magic. He wasn’t a magician; he was a healer.
 
Let us pray for whatever healing we may need and be aware of the healing gifts we are offered—in prayer, in the sacraments, in the empathy of others.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Life Begins at Forty was a 1932 bestselling self-help book by Walter B. Pitkin. It was very popular and influential. Although Pitkin did not coin the phrase “life begins at forty,” the success of his book put it into general circulation, so much so that after 1932 it became an American catchphrase for the remainder of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. There have been movies, songs, and two television series and several books that bear the same title.
 
I would like to claim that phrase for RENEW—the life of RENEW is beginning anew on this, our 40th anniversary. RENEW International is entering its fifth decade on mission for the Church and the world. And we believe life has just begun. During this year, we certainly are celebrating our founding and the many blessings God has poured forth on the Church through the work of RENEW, but we believe the best is yet to come. God is always doing something new.
 
For RENEW this milestone is about more than history; it is the impetus for us to look “Forward at Forty,” and that has been the motto of our observances. Our anniversary coincides with a critical period for the Catholic Church. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that a high percentage of millennials (ages 22-37) describe themselves as religious “nones” (atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular”). Today, more than 50 percent of those raised in Catholic households no longer identify as Catholics when they reach adulthood. Many factors have contributed to this reality, and the recent eruption in the sexual-abuse scandals has only contributed to people’s disengagement with the Church. We are poised to address these issues and, through our resources and programs, invite people of all ages to a renewed faith and energy to transform the Church for the sake of the world.
 
We began our anniversary celebration at the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. We continued in April with a Symposium on Pastoral Renewal that drew more than 200 lay men and women, clergy, and religious to Seton Hall University to hear presentations by national leaders in the field. The symposium was named to honor our co-founders—Monsignors Thomas A. Kleissler and Thomas Ivory, both of whom attended.
 
In September, we will mark the anniversary with a pilgrimage to important religious sites in Italy. And on November 4, we will conclude our celebration with a Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Park Ridge, New Jersey, where Monsignor Thomas A. Kleissler, our longtime director, began his priestly ministry. Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston will be the principal celebrant.
 
We invite you to come to this Mass of Thanksgiving and to join us at the reception that will immediately follow. With you at our side, we know that as we move “Forward at Forty” we will have even more to celebrate in the years ahead.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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ToolsLoving God,
For the opportunity to find
work meaningful,
We thank you, God.
For those with whom we work,
We ask your blessing, God.
For the times we were not conscious
of our partnership with you,
We ask forgiveness, O God.

For those who have taught us skills
and wisdom and patience,
We praise you, O God.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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justic3A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 4:1-2, 6-8)
 
This is an important moment in the history of Israel. God establishes a Covenant with the people through Moses and gives them the Law which was not a purely external, juridical thing but rather was meant to be in their hearts. Moses warns the people on the Lord’s behalf, “you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” But by the time of Jesus, there were so many add-ons to the Law that Jesus challenged religious leaders for placing a yoke on the shoulders of the people that God never intended. In contrast, Jesus said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” For the past fifty years, the Church has moved slowly away from rules, such as abstinence from meat on Fridays, so as to focus our attention more on the basic message of Jesus: Love God and one another, and believe in the reign of God that Jesus came to make present.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5)
 
The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Injustice has been present in every society, and it is present today in our own country. There are always those who oppress and cheat others. We are called to live justly and speak up for those who are oppressed and treated unjustly.
 
A reading from the Letter of James
(Chapter 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27)
 
James has a strong, challenging message. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” It is not enough to only hear God’s word. We must act on it. How? He tells us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Widows and orphans were often the poorest people in society and so needed special care. They represented others who were also poor and who also suffered physical, emotional, or mental illnesses. The early Christian community kept to this calling, and most of our churches do today, individually and collectively. It is the responsibility of the Christian community and each of us to leave no one behind.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 7:1-8, 15-15, 21-23)
 
At the time of Jesus, there were some 613 commands in Jewish religious law, most of which were not in the Torah or Law that God gave to Moses. Several of these commands had to do not so much with cleanliness but with ritual purity. Jesus and his disciples did not observe all these burdensome commands, and that was one of many reasons that the Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus gone. He challenged the burdensome authority that they exercised on people. Jesus argued that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile the person, but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Then he mentions several things that come from within a person that defile: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly.” It sounds like a list from today’s tabloids, but we can become so used to it that we take it for granted or rail against it to no effect. The message of Jesus is love, accepting his gift of unconditional love, living it in our lives, and standing up for justice, especially for the poor and oppressed, and seeking God’s mercy as well as showing mercy to others.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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companions_journeyHeavenly Father, I thank you
for the words, example, and actions
of your Son, Jesus,
which give us the path to follow.
I am grateful for the Spirit
who comes to be with us on our journey,
on the path of unity, forgiveness, care,
and love for one another.
Graced with the Resurrection of Jesus

and the Presence of the Spirit
help me to witness to others as a member
of a community of baptized believers.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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